My mother loved books, so our household was always full of them, despite the fact we were poor as church mice. I was allowed to read anything I wished and I devoured everything on her shelves plus new offerings when the bookmobile came into the neighborhood. The habit continues. In my Favorites section I list some of those works that have reached me through story and superior writing, including Sara Baume’s SPILL SIMMER FALTER WITHER.
Baume is an award-winning Irish writer with an acute ability to attach the reader to the book’s pathos. This story is sad and strange, much like the lead character, a 57-year-old man who was born with physical challenges, reared without nurture, and at 57 leads a solitary life save for the companionship of an equally-damaged one-eyed dog.
The main character describes himself as old . . . “shabbily dressed and sketchily bearded. Steamrolled features and iron-filing stubble. When I stand still I stoop, weighted down by my own lump of fear. When I move, my clodhopper feet and mismeasured legs make me pitch and clump.”
The book lacks narrative drive and I almost laid it aside several times, but there was something haunting about this story, this man. It is a strange juxtaposition — beautiful prose poetry and lush vocabulary against a doleful story that only becomes more so as it slowly moves to an inevitable conclusion. A literary work; not a light weekend read.
— Jonnie Martin